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Chicago parents ask: How long will strike go on?

As Chicago teachers enter day two of their massive strike, parents and students are struggling with unexpected days off. NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports.

CHICAGO – Felicia O’Connor, a young mother with a child in tow, approached the picket line. She asked the picketing teachers if they “know how long this thing will be going on?”

She leaves for work each day before the sun comes up and said she was unaware of the late night Sunday decision by the Chicago teachers’ union to hit the bricks. 

Now she is stuck with trying to sort out childcare for her 6- year-old daughter, Michaela. She didn’t get an answer to her question from the teachers.

“They don’t know anything. I don’t know anything. We’re just out here blank and I have to go to work,” O’Connor said.

She wound up leaving her daughter in good hands at a local Boys and Girls Club for a few hours while she went out, in vain, in search of a day care. She’s already missed one day of work and hopes her employers will show some understanding.

“Education is important. If my child is not in school, getting the education she needs, you know what… I don’t know, it is just irritating right now," she said. 

Parents in Chicago, like Felicia O'Connor seen above, scrambled to find accommodations for their kids after 26,000 teachers and support staff walked out in the nation's third-largest school district. NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports.

Picking sides
Two days into this work stoppage by the city’s third largest school district, and one finds folks starting to choose sides.

Chicago teachers strike day two: Talks stuck on evaluations

“I haven’t had a raise in seven years,” said one middle-aged woman who walked past me as I stood watching teachers march outside the headquarters of the Chicago School Board. “They’re already making more money than I am.”

“I support the teachers because I support my kids,” said a young mother who stood and watched teachers march for a few minutes. “My daughter was in a class with more than 35 kids last year; this year it is up to 41.”

About 26,000 teachers and support staff launched a strike on Monday morning – all dressed in bright red t-shirts and carrying placards – demanding a new contract between the teacher’s union and the city’s school district.

Other parents complained about a lack of school supplies or decent air conditioning for their kids on sweltering Chicago days.

One can likely assume the longer this thing drags on, the more entrenched each side is going to get. “Day One” of the strike came with a bit of a party atmosphere. By “Day Two” on Tuesday, teachers had already started fingering the mayor and chanting, “Hey Hey Ho Ho Rahm Emanuel has got to go.”

NBC Chicago's LIVE Blog: Chicago Teachers Strike

In Chicago, 26,000 teachers and support staff walked out in the nation's third-largest school district after a weekend of unsuccessful eleventh-hour contract negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago's public schools. NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.

Bigger city issues
Parents also have other concerns that are more a reflection of the city we live in. This has been a particularly deadly year on the streets of Chicago, with the homicide rate up about 30 percent from what it was a year ago. The overwhelming majority of the dead are young minorities. To give kids a "safe haven" during the strike, several churches have opened their doors. 

“There's so much violence skyrocketing in the city of Chicago. We want our kids to be in a safe place,” said Sergio Ramirez, who runs a “safe haven” in the city’s Pilsen neighborhood. 

Some 80 percent of kids in Chicago’s schools are provided with breakfast and lunch at school because they come from impoverished backgrounds. The job of teaching here, and administering an education system, has many more challenges than just ensuring kids are learning the 3Rs.

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